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Botanical Gazette 1885 




Wm .B ' .Bztrfird^Litk. Indianapolis. 

CHART of the Coimtty occupied by' the ToTreya. 

Botanical Gazette. 

Vol. X. APRIL, 1885. No. 4. 

Torreya taxifolia, Ariiott. 



[Being the only survivor of the quaternary band engaged in the erection of 
the Torrey monument, I have thought that I might perform a service accepta- 
ble to the readers of the Gazette, by placing before them a record of the circum- 
stances and events connected with it. The accompaning map will, I hope, serve 
to assist in forming a correct idea of its surroundings, and the appended list 
of plants, exhibiting a strange intermingling of low country and mountain 
forms, will not be uninteresting to the botanist.! 

Fifty years ago, on one of those calm, hazy October evenings, 
peculiar to the climate of Florida, the quiet of the pleasant town 
of Quincy was interrupted by the rapid approach of a carriage 
with attendant outriders, which, having made part of the circuit 
of the public square, drew up before my office, and a gentleman 
of middle age, spare habit, light hair, and blue eyes, came forth 
and introduced himself as Mr. Croom, of North Carolina. 

This was the commencement of my brief intercourse with 
Hardy B. Croom, the discoverer of Torreya ; for, as is well re- 
membered, a year afterwards he was lost at sea, with all of his 
family, on the passage from New York to Charleston. 

Of his personal traits it is needless here to say more than that 
he belonged to that class of wealthy and intelligent southern gen- 
tlemen, whose homes, renowned for their unostentatious hospital- 
ity, were the abode of all that is most charming in the refinements 
of domestic life; but which now, by impoverishment resulting 
from disastrous civil conflict, and consequent change of social 
customs and duties, and by the invasion of ruder manners and 
looser ethics, have entirely disappeared. 

At that time I was a mere tyro in botany, groping among the 
" andrias " of Eaton's Manual, attracted thereto by the strange 
vegetation of a new and unexplored country that met my view on 


all sides, and had recently entered upon a friendly and instruc- 
tive correspondence with Dr. Torrey, which was continued until 
his death. 

And here I may remark, parenthetically, that judging from a 
list of plants, still preserved, that I had sent to him, one might 
fancy that the distinguishing characters of genera and species, not- 
ably of Gar ex and Selena, were not then quite so clearly defined 
as they are now. Indeed, the student of to-day, with a royal road 
before him, and all inequalities removed, can not appreciate the 
difficulties encountered by a lone botanist in the wilds of Florida 
fifty years ago. 

Mr. Croom was then on one of his annual journeys from New 
Berne, North Carolina, the residence of the family, to his planta- 
tion in the adjoining county of Leon ; but previously to settling 
permanently in that county, he had rented a plantation on the 
west bank of the Apalachicola river opposite the calcareous cliffs 
at Aspalaga on the east bank, which at that time were covered by 
a dense grove of Torreya, and it was here, probably in 1833, that 
he first saw it. 

Recognizing it as likely to be new, at least to our Flora, he 
sent a flowerless branch to Mr. Nuttall, who briefly noticed it in 
the Journal of the Philadelphia Academy, Vol. VII, p. 96, with 
the suggestion that it might be the Taxus montana, of Mexico. 

At the time of our first meeting in 1835 it appears that he 
had made the acquaintance of Dr. Torrey in New York, and had 
supplied him with specimens in flower and fruit; and it was 
during the previous summer, and at the latter's request for addi- 
tional information and material, that my connection with the 
tree commenced. 

His first impressions were, I believe, that it might be a spe- 
cies of Podocarpus, but these, after a minute analysis of all its 
parts, he soon abandoned, and came to the conclusion that it con- 
stituted the type of a new genus among the Taxoid Conifers, a 
conclusion also entertained by his friend and correspondent, Dr. 
Arnott, of Edinburgh, to whom he had communicated specimens to- 
gether with a report of his analyses, and the latter, after disposing 
of the Torreya of Sprengel, which was proved to be a species of 
Glerodendron, and ignoring sundry lesser Torreyas, transferred the 
name to the Florida tree, and published a full description and 
figure of it in Annals of Natural History, Vol. I, p. 126, under 
the name of Torreya taxifolia. 

Since then, other species, from widely distant regions, have 
been added to the genus, which, like the Florida tree, appear to 


be confined to restricted localities. Ours occupies a narrow strip 
of land extending along the east bank of the Apalachicola river, 
from Chattahooche on the north, to Alum Bluff on the south, a 
distance of about twenty miles, and forming a continuous forest, 
but in detached and often widely separated clumps or groves, 
generally mingled with, or overshadowed by, magnolias, oaks and 
other native trees. There are, also, a few trees at the southern ex- 
tremity of Cypress Lake, three miles west of the river. It is a 
wild, hilly region, abounding in rocky cliffs and deep sandy 
ravines (" spring-heads,") and unlike in scenery and vegetation 
any other part of the low country known to me. To these cliffs, 
and to the precipitous sides of these ravines, the tree appears to 
be exclusively confined; for it is never seen in the low ground 
along the river, nor on the elevated plateau east of it, nor, in- 
deed, on level ground anywhere. Hence, although the sugges- 
tion may appear a startling one, were the trees of the whole 
region growing side by side in one body, I estimate that an area 
of a few hundred acres would suffice to contain all of them. 

It is seldom more than forty feet high, and eighteen inches in 
diameter, and of a brighter green than is exhibited by most trees 
of the order. Its branches are in whorls, and spread horizontally, 
gradually diminishing in length upwards, in the manner of the 
northern hemlock. It is called Savin, or Stinking Cedar (the latter 
on account of its strong and disagreeable terebinthine odor when 
bruised), names also applied, I believe, to the Florida Yew (Taxus 
Floridana), a rarer tree, which is sometimes seen growing with it. 

In unskillful hands it seldom survives removal, and therefore 
is rarely seen as a shade-tree around dwellings, or as an ornamental 
tree on lawns, and the only successful attempts in this regard that 
occur to me were made by the late Judge Dupont in Quincy, and 
by Mr. Croom in the grounds of the Capitol at Tallahassee, where, 
I am informed, two or three of the trees still survive. 

But its chief value is due to the remarkable durability of its 
wood when exposed to the vicissitudes of climate ; for it is credi- 
bly reported that some fences constructed of it sixty years ago 
still remain in sound condition. In consequence of this pecu- 
liarity it is now extensively employed by the inhabitants of the 
surrounding country for posts, shingles, and other exposed con- 
structions. In view of these facts, the future of our Torreya is 
a matter calculated to excite very grave apprehensions. A tree 
possessed of such valuable qualities, occupying an area so limited 
in extent, and in the midst of a population where the old rule of 

" Let him take who has the power, 
And let him keep who can" — 


has unlimited sway, is destined, it is to be feared, to ultimate 

Let us indulge the hope that the interest which is beginning 
to be manifested in regard to the preservation of our forests gen- 
erally, may result in measures statutory or otherwise for its 

Plants peculiar to the Region. 
Calamintha dentata. Taxus Floridana. 

Carex Baltzellii. Torreya taxifolia. 

Plants not seen by me elsewhere South of the Mountains of Georgia. 
Aristolochia tornentosa. Spiram opulifolia. 

Corn us alternifolia. Thalictrurn aneinonoides. 

Dentaria laciniata. Trautvetteria palmata. 

Calycocarpuin Lyoni. Viola Muhlenbergii, var. 

Zanthorhiza apiifolia. 

Plants not seen by me elsewhere in Florida. 
Actinomeris squarrosa. Gonolobus Baldwinianus. 

Archangelica hirsuta Hepatica triloba. 

Bumelia lycioides. Hypericum nudiflorum. 

Carex rosea. galioides, var. 

Cherokeensis Lupinus pereiinis, var. 

Halei. Luzula campestris. 

gynandra. Magnolia macrophylla. 

Clematis Viorna. Philadelphus grandiflorus. 

Croomia pauciflora. Phryma leptostachya. 

Cynoglossum Virginicum. Polygala Boykinii. 

Epigam repens. Rudbeckia laciniata. 

Euonymus atropurpureus. Sabbatia gentianoides. 

Eupatorium ageratoides. Silene Baldwinii. 

Forrestiera acuminata. Zornia tetraphylla. 

Explanation of Map. — The localities occupied by Torreya are indicated 
by heavy shading, chiefly along the bluffs. 

Notes on Naiadacese. 


A vigorous growth, with stems 12 to 18 inches high, flattened or 
a little winged, half a line broad below : leaves 1 or 2 inches long, 
nearly a line wide, 3 to 5-nerved, the midrib thick and promi- 
nent as in P. obtusifolius : peduncles erect, thick, clavate : spike 
containing sometimes as many as 12 roundish fruits, which are 
crested or undulate and frequently shouldered on the back, com- 
monly angled on the face, varying from f to 1 line in length.